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Magnolia Stakeholders: KAT Sees a Win for Pedestrians as a Win for Transit 
Upon adoption of the Magnolia Avenue Corridor Plan by Knoxville City Council and the Metropolitan Planning Commission in 2009, a report five years later, entitled “Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Report,” was produced.

It identified a “model block” for streetscaping along the Magnolia corridor. ("Streetscaping" means designing an urban roadway in such a way that all users and nearby residents are engaged.) That model block stretch of road was actually a six-block span running from Jessamine Street on the western end to North Bertrand Street on the eastern end. Last summer, the streetscapes work got underway.

In total, more than $7 million is being invested by the City to improve Magnolia Avenue. Improvements include adding landscaped center medians with designated left turn lanes, new stamped crosswalks, traffic signal upgrades, street trees and landscaping, wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

The aim is to improve pedestrian safety at intersection crossings, encourage walkability with wider, tree-lined sidewalks, and make it easier for people to bike and access transit services. It's part of the City's commitment to a "complete street" philosophy.

The connections between transit, bicycling and walking make perfect sense to the folks at Knoxville Area Transit.

“Whenever you can improve the pedestrian experience, you can improve the transit experience,” says Belinda Woodiel-Brill, KAT’s Chief Planning and Public Information Officer. 

“When you add street trees and make the walk more pleasant, people are more likely to consider doing something besides driving by themselves.”

KAT: Improving the pedestrian experience on Magnolia improves the transit experience.

KAT is one of the anchor institutions of Magnolia Avenue, with a maintenance facility for its equipment at 1135 E. Magnolia Avenue. 

But Magnolia Avenue is also important to many of KAT’s customers. Route 31, which provides transit up and down the Magnolia corridor and into downtown Knoxville, is one of KAT’s busiest, transporting an average of 16 passengers per hour.

Route 31 provides transfers to Route 33 (MLK Jr. Avenue) and Route 34 (Burlington) at the Kirkwood Street Superstop. Recognizing the need, buses run every 15 minutes on Magnolia Avenue during peak service hours.

An average of 16 people each hour ride KAT's Route 31 bus.

The streetscapes project will improve the transit experience directly – for example, concrete pads are being poured, allowing KAT over time to install covered bus stop shelters with bench seating. Typically, a bus passenger now stands and waits for a ride, without protection from the elements.

But there are supplemental amenities on the way.

The Magnolia Streetscapes Project will plant approximately 59 new trees (highbeam overcup oaks and American elms) and lay roughly 5,200 linear feet of new and widened sidewalk along the corridor.

Woodiel-Brill points to the progress KAT has made in recent years toward improving the onboard transit experience, such as recent moves toward newer, more comfortable buses with better air conditioning and fuel efficiency.

“Once you get on the bus, the experience is really great,” she says. “But waiting for the bus is not always a great experience, because there aren’t always sidewalks everywhere and there aren’t bus shelters everywhere. So anywhere we can tie into improving that pedestrian experience is going to be beneficial to ridership.”

This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Magnolia Avenue stakeholders compiled by City Communications Intern and George Washington University student Jack King.
Posted by evreeland On 24 June, 2019 at 5:45 PM